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5 Essential Habits of Highly Productive Product Managers

06/10/2015 03:42 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2016

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Great product managers are like many other high achievers. They seem to get more done in a month than most do in a year. When you find one you do everything you can to keep them, and you would gladly trade 10 good PMs for one that was great.

But their role as the CEO of their products means that they need to do more than just outwork everyone around them. They need to bring greater productivity to the entire team around them too.

The most productive product managers have the incredible ability to simultaneously captain their product and motivate lots of folks who they need to build, market, sell, and support their products.

They find a way to prioritize all the user stories, customer feedback, and feature requests to build what matters. All while dealing with different personalities and keeping one eye on the future.

If product management sounds like a challenging job, it's because it is. But the most productive product managers make it look easy -- that is part of what makes them great. That's why I call them hyper-productive.

So how do they do it? Over the past year I have been fortunate to speak with hundreds of product managers at Aha! (which is product roadmap software). I have found that there are definitely common habits shared by the most productive product leaders.

Here are some habits of hyper-productive product managers. I suggest you should do what they do if you want to be great.

Goal first
A product manager is not there to tell engineers how to do their jobs; rather, the product manager is there to tell them why the features on the roadmap are right for their customers and business. Hyper-productive product managers always keep the goal foremost in their mind, and they paint a vision for why what they are asking for matters.

Know the customer
Hyper-productive PMs are the customer and market advocate. Product and engineering teams want to be inspired and know that what they are working on matters to the customer and ultimately to the business. Great product managers know the customer, product, and business better than anyone on their team (and likely better than anyone in the company).

Be open
The most productive product managers know that they do not have all of the answers. They remain open to new ideas from their teams, as well as from other, unexpected places like customers. They listen carefully so that they do not miss meaningful insights and suggestions.

Take blame
Figuring out who to blame is a waste of time and energy. A great product manager leads through both success and failures -- they accept responsibility. This does not mean that they do not follow up to figure out what went wrong when necessary; they do. They just do not throw anyone under the bus during that process.

Throw credit
Teams work harder for a product manager that seems outright selfless. That's because that PM understands that there is a direct correlation between team recognition and productivity. Product teams rise and fall together, and saying "you did a good job" goes a long way. It is never wrong to throw credit to a team that executes.

Over the years at Aha! we have learned from getting many things right and some things wrong. We have found that these habits are shared by the most productive product managers in the world. Some of these concepts are easy to adopt -- others might require extra effort.

I can tell you that change will not happen overnight. But over time, your team may surprise you with how productive they can actually be. And you just might help them build something that customers love and that you will be proud of for a very long time.

What else do hyper-productive product managers do?